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At a Glance:
Title:
Braden v. Marquez
Date:
July 24, 1997
Citation:
950 S.W.2d 191
Status:
Published Opinion

Braden v. Marquez

Court of Appeals of Texas,

El Paso.

Frank BRADEN and Bill Ehrhardt, Relators,

v.

The Honorable Edward S. MARQUEZ, Judge of the 65th District Court of El Paso County, Texas, Respondent.

No. 08–97–00198–CV.

|

July 24, 1997.

Attorneys & Firms

*192 Larry W. Wise, Martinec Hargadon & Wise, P.C., Austin, for Relators.

Stewart W. Forbes, El Paso, for Respondent.

Before CHEW, JJ.

ON MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE

PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

LARSEN, Justice.

This is an original proceeding in mandamus. The relators, defendants in the underlying lawsuit, seek a writ of mandamus from this court requiring the trial court to reverse its orders denying a special appearance and a plea to the jurisdiction. For the reasons stated below, we deny leave to file the petition for writ of mandamus.

FACTS

On May 6, 1994, a jury found that Sotera Pineira was injured in a 1992 accident while in the course and scope of her employment with Alliance Health Inc., a nonsubscriber under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. The jury awarded Pineira approximately $20,000 for her physical pain, lost earning capacity, and medical expenses. Pineira attempted to execute on her judgment after it became final, but found that Alliance had sold all of its assets in 1993 leaving no property in the State of Texas to satisfy the judgment. In an attempt to locate assets to satisfy her judgment, Pineira took discovery in aid of judgment and eventually came to the conclusion that Alliance was the alter ego of Frank Braden and Bill Ehrhardt, the relators in this mandamus proceeding.

*193 Pineira first asserted her claims against Braden and Ehrhardt in a “Third–Party Petition” she filed on March 15, 1996 under the cause number of her original lawsuit against Alliance. She later filed a “First Amended Petition to Pierce Corporate Veil and Establish Alter Ego” under the same cause number. Ehrhardt, who resides in Atlanta, Georgia, objected to the trial court’s jurisdiction with a special appearance. He alleged that he was not a resident of Texas, did not engage in business in Texas in his personal capacity, never committed any tort within the state, and had no employees, servants, or agents within the state.

In addition to his special appearance, Ehrhardt, along with Braden, filed a plea to the jurisdiction. Ehrhardt and Braden sought relief from the trial court’s exercise of jurisdiction over them after the judgment had become final. They complained that the trial court had no jurisdiction to add them to the lawsuit after its jurisdiction and plenary power had expired. Pineira, on the other hand, alleged that her attempt to pierce the corporate veil was no more than a method of enforcing the judgment she had obtained against Alliance. Since a trial court has the power to enforce its judgments past the expiration of its plenary power over the subject matter, Pineira maintained that the trial court had jurisdiction to enforce its judgment against Ehrhardt and Braden as the alter egos of Alliance, the judgment debtor. See 621a. After a hearing on both motions, the trial court denied relief and maintained personal jurisdiction over Ehrhardt and subject matter jurisdiction over the proceeding to pierce the corporate veil. Defendants now seek mandamus in this court.

DISCUSSION

This proceeding requires us to consider two points. First, is the trial court’s order denying the special appearance of an out-of-state officer of a corporation that does business in Texas so clearly an abuse of discretion as to subject it to mandamus? Second, did the trial court clearly abuse its discretion by denying these two corporate officers’ challenge to the plaintiff’s attempt to enforce a corporate judgment against them individually almost two years after expiration of the trial court’s plenary power?

STANDARD OF REVIEW ON MANDAMUS

The relator bears the burden of providing the court with a sufficient record to establish their right to mandamus relief. See TEX.R.APP.P. 121(a)(2)(C) and (F). Mandamus will lie only to correct a clear abuse of discretion. Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 840 (Tex.1992)(orig.proceeding). Moreover, there must be no other adequate remedy at law. Id.

1. Clear abuse of discretion

An appellate court rarely interferes with a trial court’s exercise of discretion. A clear abuse of discretion warranting correction by mandamus occurs when a court issues a decision which is without basis or guiding principles of law. See Walker, 827 S.W.2d at 840.

2. No adequate remedy by appeal

An appellate court will deny mandamus relief if another remedy, usually appeal, is available and adequate. *194 Holloway v. Fifth Court of Appeals, 767 S.W.2d 680, 684 (Tex.1989)(quoting James Sales, Original Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Courts of Civil Appeals of Texas in Appellate Procedure in Texas, Sec. 1.4(1)(b) at 47 [2d Ed.1979] ).

THE STANDARD AS APPLIED TO SPECIAL APPEARANCES

Ordinarily, appellate review of a trial court’s decision on a challenge to personal jurisdiction provides an adequate remedy. An attempt to mandamus the trial court’s decision therefore usually fails to meet the second element necessary for mandamus relief, that the movant has no adequate remedy from the trial court’s order. Id. at 309.

The Supreme Court applied the standard it first contemplated in Canadian Helicopters Ltd. to the facts of National Industrial Sand, 897 S.W.2d at 773, 776. Accordingly, the court found no basis for the trial court’s jurisdiction over the defendant and determined that the trial court’s erroneous assertion of jurisdiction was so arbitrary and without regard to guiding principles as to place the case within the limited exception recognized in Canadian Helicopters Ltd. Id. at 776.

Unlike the plaintiff in National Industrial Sand, in this case Pineira has pleaded a viable theory of jurisdiction over Ehrhardt as an officer of Alliance. Ehrhardt established in his affidavit that he never did business in his individual capacity in Texas. An exception to the general rule that an individual’s contacts on behalf of a corporation do not create personal jurisdiction over the person, however, exists in situations where the court may disregard the corporate fiction on the theory of alter ego. Leon Ltd., 862 S.W.2d at 707 (alter ego shown from the total dealings of the corporation and the individual).

Of course, we make no comment at this time on the ultimate merits of Pineira’s action to pierce Alliance’s corporate veil and to establish Alliance as the alter ego of Braden and Ehrhardt. We find only that there are some facts in the record which are consistent with Pineira’s alter ego theory of jurisdiction over Ehrhardt. Thus, in this case the trial court did not so clearly abuse its discretion as the trial court did in National Industrial Sand by denying the defendant’s special appearance on the basis of an invalid theory of jurisdiction with no facts to support it. Here, we have a valid theory with some facts in the record to support it. The record before us therefore does not present a case of totally absent elements of personal jurisdiction over Ehrhardt such that the trial court’s assertion of jurisdiction is so arbitrary and without regard to guiding principles as to place this case within the limited exception recognized in Canadian Helicopters Ltd., 876 S.W.2d at 308–09.

Accordingly, we deny leave to file the petition for writ of mandamus to the extent it seeks relief from the trial court’s refusal to grant Ehrhardt’s special appearance.

THE STANDARD AS APPLIED TO THE PLEA TO THE JURISDICTION

Unlike special appearance, the Supreme Court has not recognized an exception for truly extraordinary circumstances relevant to the trial court’s abuse of discretion in the context of pleas to the jurisdiction. Rather, the Supreme Court has consistently held that pleas to the jurisdiction fall under the category of rulings for which there is an adequate remedy by appeal. Proffer v. Yates, 734 S.W.2d 671, 673 (Tex.1987)(orig.proceeding)(mandamus appropriate to direct transfer of child support case because justice demands speedy resolution of such cases). Such extraordinary circumstances are not present in this case. Accordingly, Ehrhardt and Braden cannot show that they have no adequate relief from the trial court’s order and we deny leave to file that portion of the petition for writ of mandamus seeking review of the trial court’s order on the plea to the jurisdiction.1

CONCLUSION

Having determined that Ehrhardt and Braden are not entitled to relief on either of the challenged orders, we deny leave to file the petition for writ of mandamus.

Footnotes

1

We do not determine, however, the merits of the plaintiff’s choice to bring her action to pierce the corporate veil and to establish alter ego in the present lawsuit. See Gentry v. Credit Plan Corp. of Houston, 528 S.W.2d 571, 575 n. 2 (Tex.1975).

End of Document
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